I’m not sure our lives get made any better by expansion and ‘progress’. Everything us humans touch seems to get spoiled and adulterated. It seems like we’ve lost our way. The world is angry and fearful. There is too much information streaming through our brains all the time. It’s too much to process. A steady stream of stress is not good for our well being. And it shows in every horrific crime that takes place. It shows in the subtle divisiveness between neighbors, too.
“Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is Christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but the change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts….the civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet…
” He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. The solstice he does not observe, the equinox he knows as little…and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, …entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue.”
Karl Marx wrote that: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”
If religion is the opiate of the masses; a quelling of symptoms of suffering, then compassion is the true cure. Compassion is the key. It is available to us all, no matter our beliefs. Maybe it doesn’t believe in rules or always obey laws, but compassion always comes from the heart. I believe we find what is there by being quiet, contemplating, and looking within….
I think prayer is when we tell God what we want while meditation is when we allow our mind to become quiet so that the Universe can tell us what it wants. Meditation allows us to connect to the thing that connects us all to everything else in the Universe.
Henry Miller describes a little about the quiet mind via the main character in Colossus of Maroussi in a way that strongly resonates with my beliefs about tuning out and tuning in. Here is a brief excerpt:
“I was like Robinson Crusoe on the island of Tobago. For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too.
“To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself.
“The book-learning gradually dribbles away; problems melt and dissolve; ties are gently severed; thinking, when you deign to indulge in it, becomes very primitive; the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes;
“…you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish with their frenzied activities; you know there is a war on but you haven’t the faintest idea what it’s about or why people should enjoy killing one another; you look at a place like Albania—it was constantly staring me in the eyes—and you say to yourself, yesterday it was Greek, to-day it’s Italian, to-morrow it may be German or Japanese, and you let it be anything it chooses to be. When you’re right with yourself it doesn’t matter which flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak English or Monongahela.
“The absence of newspapers, the absence of news about what men are doing in different parts of the world to make life more livable or unlivable is the greatest single boon. If we could all go on strike and honestly disavow all interest in what our neighbor is doing we might get a new lease on life. We might learn to do without telephones and radios and newspapers, without machines of any kind, without factories, without mills, without mines, without explosives, without battleships, without politicians, without lawyers, without canned goods, without gadgets, without razor blades even or cellophane or cigarettes or money.
“This is a pipe dream, I know.”
It’s terribly sad to me that we don’t pay more attention to the things right in front of us. There is magic and medicine happening in the small quiet moments. If we are focused on what’s happening a million miles away, we might miss the magic in our own back yard.
Go for a walk, sit on a porch, stare at the clouds, listen to the rain, stare into a puddle. Get quiet. Breathe. The rest will fall into place. The way out is in.
P.S. (there is nothing out here….nothing out here….nothing out here).